I am quite sure you are familiar with the idiom “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.” As you know, this refers to the kind of a person who when given a small amount of freedom or power will inevitably try to push for more.
This concept can be applied to a multitude of situations. In a cute and comical way, children’s book author Laura Numeroff illustrates a seemingly innocuous version of this in her series of books that started out with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, where when given a cookie, a mouse will most likely want a glass of milk to go with it. After that, a straw, then a mirror (to check for a milk mustache), and so on until it ends with him wanting another of what he received in the first place, a cookie.
A more serious example of “giving an inch” would be the very public historical error that Chamberlain made in giving the Sudetenland to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938. In an act of appeasement and an attempt to avoid war, the prime ministers of Britain, France and Italy gave power hungry Adolf Hitler what he threatened to take by force. The problem was, Adolf Hitler was a “give an inch” kind of person. Instead of appeasing him they just made his attempted takeover easier. He did not stop there.
Such will be the case with a narcissistic abuser. Even now I have to fight to keep every inch of ground I have gained. Kindness and grace are regarded as weakness and weakness is an opportunity to battle for ground. I am in the middle of such a battle right now. It has been ongoing really, little skirmishes here and there, some becoming more full-blown combat. Through impassive and businesslike emails I attempt to keep the situation on level ground but this is often to no avail. When I do not budge on my boundaries, Jekyll goes away and Hyde comes back. I ran into this situation just the other night.
I have made the request that my former husband does not come onto my front porch during child exchanges. No, let me clarify. It was a request initially, now it is just a demand. I have tried making requests but have found this to be ineffective. I have had to make it a rule that he does not come onto my front porch. (Lesson learned along the way) It is my front porch, my home, and as such I have the right to make certain rules about my own property.
The front porch is centrally located in my house and the stairs to the second floor are located right in front of it. Sometimes when the kids come in and out during the exchange time (as happens often) the front door is left open. I have done quite well so far avoiding contact and this is how I wish to continue to manage the situation at this time. The more contact I have the more trouble I get. When he stands on the front porch and the door is left open, I become either a prisoner in my own home or risk coming into contact with him. I am not hiding and cowering in fear as he has alleged many times. I just have no wish to engage. This has worked for me so far. Why change a successful strategy?
Two exchanges ago he came up onto the porch several times and even knocked on the door to try to get me to answer. He had an envelope for me, papers taking care of details from the settlement. I knew he would be bringing them and had asked in advance that he place them in the mailbox. Typically he just sends things like this in with the kids but this had been made an issue too. He said he could not do that because the envelope was cardboard (very flexible bendable cardboard mind you). He texted me several times in the attempt to get me to greet him. He even promised to smile and be amiable. I held my ground and texted back asking nicely, perhaps a little too nicely, for him to just leave it on the porch and I would be sure to get it. He finally relented, placed the cardboard clad documents on the porch and drove off.
I say “too nice perhaps” because the texting continued. This is, as you know if you have been reading my blog, one of my boundaries. Texting is reserved for emergencies involving the kids when he has them. Period. This has been another hard fought battle. I made the mistake of returning his texts 3 times with responses like “Ok. Thank you” and “No worries, just leave it on the porch and I’ll get it” and this opened the door for him to tell me how I upset I make him but that he wants to show the kids we can get along. I finally just stopped responding. This battle over texting has gone on for a long time. I have repeatedly indicated that I do not want to communicate via text and it has repeatedly been disregarded.
I gave an inch in texting him outside my boundaries and he took that as an open door. I did follow up with an email however requesting that he stay off my porch. It is an uncomfortable situation for me that I would prefer to avoid.
The following week he approached the porch to get a suitcase for a child but did not go on it. So far so good. Then there was the other night. He brought the children’s birth certificates to me and placed them in the mailbox. Great! He drove up and honked the horn to let the kids know he was there. No problem there. Then I heard his voice. Close. Too close. I came around the corner and could see him through the glass on the front door. There he stood on the first step. Then the second. Then finally on the front porch. He was there several minutes as the boys were particularly dawdly today. Really? So soon I thought? I honestly did not expect this.
After he left I emailed him and told him that he needed to just stay on the driveway from now on as this was my property and I did have a right to make this request of him and have it honored. I also stated in the future if this continued to be a problem he would need to just pull up on the street and I would send the kids out to him. I also followed up with consequences for his lack of respect for my boundaries.
Now I want to take a moment for a brief commercial. This response may sound rigid and harsh. Trust me, I understand. Getting to this point was no small feat. As you already know I was conditioned to think that having personal boundaries or rights was “mean.” I could not keep boundaries let alone exact consequences for a long time. Support in this area is still very important to me.
Last week’s article about forgiveness was a crucial reminder to me that forgiveness does not mean you can’t have and enforce boundaries, but this is very much what an abuser would like for you to believe. I don’t hear it much anymore but I have in the past, that boundaries are a sign of a lack of forgiveness. Absolutely not! Do not believe that. You have every right to protect yourself. It is ok to have personal boundaries and rules that you hold another person to. And though you may have every intent of being reasonable and cooperative, a person who takes a mile has no intention of keeping those boundaries. It is war and you have to fight to keep them. I have experienced enough to know. It is like guarding a castle wall where the enemy is constantly circling, looking for cracks or weak spots. You cannot afford to have weak spots.
As this article has become lengthy I will close with his emailed response to me. It does not end with this one. In the following article I post, I will explain the progression of responses that continued after the first one.
That’s fine Becky. I will pick the kids up at six. You must be one miserable person, staring from behind the blinds just trying to find something wrong with anything I do, even if it’s walking one step up onto the porch to help my daughter with her bag. I pity you, I truly do.
I will bring the kids home in the morning when I’m ready to, at a time of my choice. I will text you.
In closing and as an explanation, notice he deflects his actions (standing on the porch) with what seems to be a reasonable explanation behind why he violated my boundaries. First, if it is a boundary, it is a boundary. If you have a “no soliciting” sign in your front yard, it does not mean everybody but Girl Scouts can come to your door (unless you specify so). It means you do not want sales people coming up to your door, period. My daughter had a light back pack with her for a one night stay but that does not explain the reason that he stood there for several minutes after she was already out at his car. It is an attempt to not only make me look unreasonable (to the people he has told me he is blind carbon copying on his emails) but to deflect from the fact that he did indeed do exactly what I have asked him not to. If I am unreasonable then there is no violation, right?
Also, I had given him an extra three hours with the kids for this particular drop-off but was specific on the return time as I have found I cannot leave things open-ended without being taken advantage of. You can see this too was disregarded. What he does not seem to understand is that anytime I give him extra time beyond what is allotted by the settlement I am being gracious, giving him something beyond the confines of our settlement. He does not seem to see it this way. Instead it is regarded by him as his right.
As for his tone and other comments those require no explanation.
Next time: the email exchange continues…..